OUR NEW REALITY? by Janet Wood Asbridge

Hello. I'm a mom of a thirty-year-old man with a serious mental illness. Because of HIPAA laws, I can't be exactly sure what his diagnosis is, but if I were to guess, I would say schizophrenia. 

Daniel had dyspraxia from birth. For those of you who don't know, dyspraxia means that the fine and gross motor tasks that you and I take for granted are extremely difficult for him. An example of this is that Daniel's shoes were untied and flopping for the first 18 years of his life. He was also a late bloomer and his muscle tone was low. So when he was six, he looked like he was four. Because of these factors, he was either bullied or ignored by his peers. In contrast to his physical problems, his verbal IQ and ability to think deeply about issues was off-the-chart high. This set up a difficult paradigm and a traumatic theme for the first part of his life.

My son graduated from college with a degree in English. Then, about five years ago, he had a psychotic break and came home to live. He was agreeable to our assistance and got on medication that helped him to stabilize. During this time period, he worked a steady part-time job at Walgreens and went back to college for a second degree in web design. We bought a house that he rented from us. Each week he came home to have a meal with us and to visit. When he graduated with his web design degree, he started his own business from home and had a few clients. Just enough, we thought, to keep his stress level low. I relaxed a bit, hoping that we'd beaten the odds. This past January, he got a new, big client that was going to start a new theater company in our community and he was jazzed. We were excited for him, too.

By March, however, we realized he'd stopped taking his medication. He was very combative and fearful. His speech was odd and often unintelligible. He made some abusive accusations that were not true about both his dad and me. He had grandiose plans of going to Africa to preach the gospel and seemed to be waiting for someone to come and get him. 

He was gone from home for over a month and we didn't know if he was dead or alive, until we'd get another call from the police. Between March and May, he was picked up by the police for trying to find a woman he used to date by rattling doorknobs in upscale neighborhoods. They kept telling us he was polite and well spoken, and he never committed a crime so he wasn't arrested. They took him to the hospital four different times instead. One time, he agreed to treatment and we were hopeful that he would start to get better again, but that was not to be. 

Daniel finally came back to his own home and we breathed a sigh of relief that, at least, we knew where he was. But now, he wants nothing to do with us. We stop by once a week to say hi and tell him we love him and he won't let us in the door. He doesn't think he's sick (anosognosia) and refuses help or contact from anyone who loves him, including his friends and his brother. He seems stabilized in a marginal sort of way. He walks to the Minute Mart near his home for food and cigarettes. He hangs around his yard and seems to keep watch on the street. It's a family neighborhood in a newer development. I worry about whether he'll do something dangerous and about resident comfort levels as he stalks through the neighborhood looking scary.

We're heartbroken and grieving. In some ways, it's as if he's died because he's become such a stranger. I hope and pray for his recovery but also understand that this may be our new, permanent reality. 

Photo Credit: Hope by Lynne Williams Flickr.com

Photo Credit: Hope by Lynne Williams

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